Home Ec: How to Keep a Clean Home

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Today is the very first post in a new and ongoing series on our site called Home Ec. Inspired by the classes some of us grew up taking, these new posts will be about simple ways to keep your home functional and beautiful and working to meet the needs of your family. Whether that means mastering the art of decluttering, making spaces pet-friendly, finding ways to keep kids’ rooms clean or just making tidying up easier, these posts are about finding ways to help make your home make you happy. There is never (ever) one right way to do things and there is no home or home plan that is perfect for every person. These posts are intended, much like Modern Etiquette, to help share some trusted guidelines that you can use, or tweak, to suit your needs.

I was SO happy to see all of your requests and ideas for upcoming columns, so please stay tuned for those topics soon. But first I wanted to start with a topic that’s near, although not always dear, to my heart: cleaning. To be quite honest, I don’t love cleaning. I am someone who has both learned to live somewhat minimally (so messes are less likely to happen) and someone who is pretty okay with things being piled up here and there and getting to the dishes when I have time. But I genuinely understand and embrace the idea that a clean, tidy house is one that helps you feel relaxed and restored at home. When the Mrs. Meyers Clean Day team sent me a copy of their “no-nonsense” clean home book, I gravitated toward one section of the book immediately: A quick and easy guide of what to clean in your home and how often. Broken down by frequency (i.e.: once a day, once a year), the book made all of the household chores on my list feel less like a burden and more like a simple guideline of things to do. Because let’s be honest, not everyone has time to mop the floors and scrub the sinks every day. But once a week? That might be doable.

No matter what frequency is right for you, this easy, downloadable guide is designed to help you have a map to follow when you have the time to spruce things up a bit. Whether you’re just spraying down your counters or getting down and dirty with your tile floors, it’s always true that chipping away a little bit every day always makes things a little easier. So I hope this starter guide will help you feel more in control of things at home and help make messes feel less overwhelming. Remember: no one, and no home, is perfect. If you can only get to one of these things on this list, it’s better than none. And it gets you one step closer to feeling like you can come home, drop your bags at the door and feel relaxed and calm. xo, grace

Download the printable guide here!

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This post and the Home Ec section are brought to you by Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day. Visit the Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Home-Grown Inspiration section featuring 20 DIYs, including seven from Design*Sponge!

  1. Rather fortuitous. Was going to sit down and work out a cleaning plan tonight. Disagree with clearing fridge only once a month though. Things can get pretty grim in there so we clear out the fridge every 1-2 weeks, just before each food shop.

    clementinebuttercup.blogspot.co.uk

    1. Jill says:

      I agree… I clean out my fridge on Sunday then grocery shop Monday

  2. Kaitlyn says:

    Love it! I am so looking forward to this column :)

  3. maggie says:

    I am trying to think of a way to bring this list up to my roommate without coming off as an uptight jerk…I just like my home clean is all! Love this list.

  4. Thanks for the tips! I also am reading Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” so between her book and your post, 2015 is looking pretty good for the domestic front!

  5. katie says:

    DS seems different. I know you all put so much work into DS and I admire you all. But I miss the way DS used to be. I used to learn so much and feel challenged. I wonder where did Amy go?
    Lately there is so much Ikea and Target, and if not those big box companies, a lot about the same products and people that you have written about before and lots of personal stuff. You all seem like great great people but the personal stuff isn’t so interesting. May be the personal and lifestyle is a different blog.
    I know design intersects every part of life but I feel like you have lowered the bar.

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      Katie

      I’m sorry to hear you feel that way. As the site (and we) grow up a bit, the personal pieces are what interest us most, rather than product posts (which feel the same across most sites these days). Most of our readers (we’ve been tracking this closely for the past few years) seem to respond strongly to those personal pieces, so we’ve grown them into the site as a monthly (but not daily) feature.

      We still post indie products and fine artists every week, but I’m sorry if those additional personal pieces feel like they’re taking up more space than you’d like. If there are any types of posts you miss (specifically those that you feel challenged you in a good way), please feel free to let me know. I’m always happy to see if those are topics we can pick back up in a way that still feels authentic for us now.

      Grace

  6. katie says:

    Will do.
    It’s not that I miss product posts, I miss design principles and history and what people are doing with design in addition home decor.
    And I figured you must track your readers and I was guessing my thoughts might differ from the majority. I was hoping I could convey that I miss the way DS used to be and be very clear that I think you are amazing and do such good things in the world! I wish the very best for everyone at DS.
    Target and Ikea are so filled with things that are going to become landfill. Even just the packaging. The environmental impact of big box stores is negative. It makes me sad to see these stores written, would rather read about what designers are doing to help people to buy in bulk so you buy so much packaging at Target. Things like that in addition to what I mentioned above. Things like that.

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      Katie

      I think I understand, but could you humor be for a second longer and give me another example of what you mean by ‘what people are doing with design in addition to home decor’? Do you mean like artist interviews? Or something more specific? I just want to get a good idea of what may be missing so I can consider if there’s a way to incorporate more of that.

      Target and Ikea are a very real part of a lot of our audience’s lives, because of their accessibility and price point. Are they the only shops I think people should shop at? No. Are they the majority of what we post? No. We try to balance requests for more affordable product posts with our desire to encourage people to wait and invest in handmade work, but a little bit of both has been our model from day one.

      Grace

  7. Amanda says:

    I’ve actually been searching for a pretty printable cleaning schedule exactly like this. Thank you!

  8. jessvii says:

    I looove the idea for this column. At my (public) school, you were only allowed to take shop class OR home ec., so guess who never took home ec. (not both – they were held at the same time)? Me! I wouldn’t say there is a hole in my life, but it kind of kills me that even now, my partner is better at sewing, cooking, and other things because of the home economics class they had in high school more than a decade ago!

    One minor word of caution though, I really hope this column doesn’t disappear without an explanation. I used to love the Color of the Day posts (example: http://www.designsponge.com/2013/05/color-of-the-day-ochre.html), and then they vanished. The Flower Glossary posts (http://www.designsponge.com/2014/04/flower-glossary-carnation-part-2.html) vanished too. I understand that columns end sometimes as the blog evolves, but I’d appreciate a little timely blurb about why (example: “they were a pain to do.” or “most readers didn’t care.”). It would just help me to not miss them if I knew the reason they were gone.

  9. I like the idea! I might download it!

  10. Jessica says:

    I feel that it’s refreshing to see a fellow reader leave a comment regarding the evolution of D*S, in a way that’s respectful yet honest. (Katie — Could you be any sweeter?) I don’t think it’s very helpful towards keeping D*S a satisfying space for fans, when criticism comes in the form of a blatant complaint. And, again, I’d like to reinforce that the D*S team does a remarkable job to create an online space for people to enjoy. A free one, at that.

    Since this topic has been opened to the forum, I would like to take an opportunity and raise my hand. Speaking only for myself (as I have no idea if anyone else would agree with me), I do miss the “Living In” series that had once been a popular staple. I’m a gigantic film buff (and I’m SUPER nostalgic, by nature)…To me, “Living In” was the perfect marriage of paying tribute to beloved movies while offering ideas in home décor. I’ve, actually, been feeling this way for months; and I’ve even considered reaching out in a private email, to offer my own “Living In” editorial contributions. (Grace — While I’m sure that you would have appreciated such a gesture, I have no doubt that you have more than enough staff and that you’re not looking for new contributors.) Perhaps the series has been put aside for now, to focus energy in other areas…I just wanted to say that Living In’s absence hasn’t gone unnoticed.

    –Jessica

    Ps. I love the personal content D*S has been sharing. And I look forward to seeing Grace and Julia’s “old country home” become something they’ve grown into together.

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      Hi Jessica-

      Thanks so much for your email and feedback. The Living In column isn’t gone for good, but statistically, it didn’t do as well as many other categories, so as we scaled back and focused on content that met our main criteria (something we enjoy producing + content that does well with readers), that column got cut back to make way for content that engages both our team and audience in a more successful way. But thank you so much for your support of that column and the site in general.

      Grace

  11. Kathleen says:

    Good list, but laundry just once a week?! Maybe for the single folks. My husband and I have identical twin boys who will be 4 years old next month and we have to do laundry every day or it takes on a life of its own.

  12. Patsy Ann says:

    Oh my goodness… You have got to be kidding. I’ve been a homeowner of a 1800 sq. ft. bungalow for almost 30 years, have slowly restored its old bones, developed 3 cottage gardens for it, all while working full time. I’m single, so I have no more than ONE pair of hands. This list is completely unrealistic for someone like me.

    I don’t know about y’all, but when you have an old house with constant needs, laundry to do, groceries to buy, errands to run, multiple pets to care for, garden maintenance, basic daily hygiene, physical exercise, meals to prepare, 6 hours of sleep, and a full time career, there is no way in Hell that a mentally and emotionally stable adult can include this dang pursuit-of-perfection-and-then-some list.

    As a creative person, one MUST have some reflection time. Perhaps this list is realistic for those who have hired help. I’m not interested in being perfect. I want a balanced life that includes some free time.

    But I am looking forward to future posts in this new category.

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      Patsy Ann

      Did you read my introduction? I made it quite clear this is meant as a suggestion, not a requirement. I think I made it very very clear in my opening text that not everyone has time for this, so it’s a guide to look at and work through when and IF you have time.

      Grace

      1. Rhina says:

        Yes, this is a GUIDE. Wich I found very useful, and I myself included cleaning the ceiling fans once a month and clear the coffe tables daily. You have to work around the best for your on needs

  13. Emilee says:

    What a handy list! I’ve been looking for a way to get my cleaning routine more organized.

  14. Mel says:

    Love this list. Just spent the Australian school break doing the big clean out – linen cupboards, pantry, and the junk drawer! Even managed to squeeze in a furniture makeover! Ready to start 2015 with a clean house – the list is a bonus. Thanks.

  15. leanne says:

    This article is just what I need, this is getting me excited for a cleaning schedule x

  16. winnie says:

    Just what I needed, hopefully i’ll stick to the routine, it’s so easy to forget sometimes. Love the Home Ec concept can’t wait to see what’s in store for future posts. Great job.

  17. Brittany says:

    I have to chime in and agree with Katie. You guys have brought consistently high quality content for years. But this particular post feels out of place with the DS brand. Maybe it’s that I’ve seen these lists on other blogs? Or maybe it’s the topic of cleaning itself that seems like an ill fit. I know everyone’s a critic, so I apologize, but I really miss Past and Present and Small Measures. Although, maybe I’m in the minority here… I really felt those types of posts were original and interesting. Are those columns gone for good?

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      Hi Brittany

      We’ve actually always covered cleaning and restoration here. That’s not a new area for us.

      Columns come and go with writers, so while the name of the column may change, the content usually remains. Design history is something we always do, but Amy requested a break from that column over a year ago, so that hasn’t been on the site for some time.

      Small Measures was (and still is) the brand name of Ashley English, so when she began writing more books and moved on, that was something I didn’t feel right continuing with (the name) without her attached to it. But her general green ethos, focus on handmade and cleaning products are something we still do regularly in the DIY columns and will pick up with this new section.

      As someone who lives and breaths what we write here, I find it’s often confusing for readers when the name of a column changes and the content becomes just something we do under a different name or heading. But I can assure you that cleaning, DIY and history are still big parts of the site, they just don’t always pop up under the old headings in the same way. :)

      Grace

  18. Katherine says:

    This made me laugh and then sigh. My list for how to keep a clean house:

    Once a lifetime: Don’t have twin babies. (Oh crap. Too late.)
    Every day: Think “screw it” and embrace the chaos.

  19. Stacie says:

    Hiring my cleaning lady to come every two weeks: Best gift I ever gave myself! :) Other than that, keeping counters and surfaces clear, and doing one load of laundry per day really help me stay on top of a tidy house. Thanks for the checklist!

  20. Laurel says:

    I’m stoked about this new Home Ec column! So funny that the first one popped up today, the very day that I realize my house is actually clean maybe twice a year. I can quickly make it *look* clean with some counter-clearing and a sweep, but in the ongoing work/life balance struggle, I just can’t keep up with everything, so I’m willing to live in some filth. (As long as it doesn’t look like filth. Hide that filth.)

  21. Great post! Extremely useful!

  22. Jessica says:

    Grace – Thanks for taking the time to respond! It’s nice to know that you really did hear me.

    I hear you, as well. I used to be a magazine editor, myself; and, today, I work in television, overseeing social media promotions for shows that vary in audience and tone.

    You have to put your time/energy (and, in this case, your “content”), where it makes the most sense.

    Cheers. :)

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      Jessica

      Thanks for your understanding. It’s always a balancing game between staying true to what feels right (and interesting) to us, and what people seem to want more of. We try to make sure those things are the same most of the time, but every now and then we’ll do a post that’s based on reader requests (ie: inexpensive decor under some $ amount) and then content that we’re super passionate about in-house (ie: doing away with gender in design).

      Grace :)

  23. Yao says:

    Dear Grace,

    I’ve read D*S for years and years now (at least two complete site redesigns ago), and I just wanted to say I really enjoy this new column. As I’ve aged from mid-20s to early-30s, I find that going back to basics, like cleaning, is actually more fundamental to keeping me happy in my home than buying a new light fixture or piece of furniture.

    So thank you so much for continuing to change and evolve Design*Sponge! And can’t wait for more updates from your home renovations. :)

  24. Chelsey says:

    This list is great! I will pass this on to my clients. Cheers!

  25. Andrea says:

    Happy to see this post! As an allergy sufferer and generally tidy person I’m going to show it to my husband so he knows that it’s not just me who insists on dusting every week. I like housekeeping tips and columns. I do like the product roundups that you used to do a long time ago – like great sofas under $1000. I found those really helpful.
    Everyone needs things sometimes and everyone buys things sometimes. I don’t feel bad about being a conscious consumer and I think that we need a hi/lo mix of price points just for regular budgets and also to escape being too twee. Thank you!

  26. Chad says:

    It seem such a waste to check for expired items and throw them out. Whenever I make a shopping list (after planning meals for the next week/few days) I always try and include *something* from the pantry and things that are in the fridge. That way, you’re constantly rotating what you have in and hopefully don’t waste anything.

    Also, when I defrost the freezer (about twice yearly), the month before I cook recipes that incorporate what’s in the freezer so that when I *do* defrost the freezer it’s pretty much bare. This stops me from leaving anything in the freezer too long too.

    I hope these tips might help someone out there :)

  27. Rebeca says:

    Grace, I love this list! It’s simple and to the point. Question for you: what kind of sink cleaner do you use for your kitchen sink? I’m thinking I’ll wash mine more if I change to a better, less abrasive product for daily use.

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      hi rebeca!

      i always just rinse down our sink with soap and winter, nothing fancy. i was using something more abrasive and it left marks on the sink, so i went back to good old fashioned dish soap :)

      grace

  28. Linda says:

    Back in the last century when I was a new Army officer’s wife – not a new wife, but a new military wife – part of my orientation to post living was a class on keeping house. I kid you not. We were given a list similar to the one posted in this blog with instructions to put each of the necessary tasks on its own file card, color code the tops of the cards with a separate color for daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly taks, to keep them in a file box, and every week plan out the daily cleaning tasks. I basically pitched the stuff, attended very few Officer Wives activities, and still managed to pass the “white glove inspection” when we left post housing. Yes the inspectors wore white gloves and would run their gloved fingers over spots one was likely to forget about. Any lurking dirt would of course show up on those white gloved fingers. Ever check the underside of the toilet tank with a mirror? Me either. :-) One passed on the first go around if you hired one of the “approved” cleaning women. But that was all in my former life. :-) FWIW – my house gets cleaned by me on a regular basis. And most days you can walk in without me being embarrassed by a messy or dirty house despite the fact I live with a very large dog. And if I am gardening I probably bring in as much dirt as Zeus Dog. But many people will find the list of cleaning tasks helpful especially if cleaning, etc. has not part part of their upbringing. Thanks for bringing back those old memories of a long gone era. :-)

  29. Oooh, I’m excited about Home Ec! I’d love to minimize my clutter and maximize my cleaning efficiency. I could see this info being useful in a customizable app form.

  30. Lynda says:

    Great list. If I may, an addendum….

    Remember: Please don’t confuse this list with the definition of a “perfect” home. That definition of “perfect” is from a time when women’s social worth was largely tied to how they kept their houses. It doesn’t apply anymore. It can’t *possibly* if you work full-time or have kids. I don’t know what “perfect” is for you, but instead of asking yourself if you’ve disinfected the garbage pail this month, please, for me, remind yourself that you’re amazing, that your family and friends are *better people* for your presence in their lives, and that every day above ground is a good day, even if that ground has some dog hair on it right now. Who cares about the dog hair? Nobody. You are beautiful and strong and smart. People look up to you; trust me. And you are doing a great job, a phenomenal job, just being a woman in a world where you’re still expected–even after all these years and all the progress we’ve made–to put yourself last. PS: If it would truly make your heart happy to have your house this clean, hand this list to the people you live with and tell them to get cracking ;)

  31. Delia says:

    Definitely a very handy list.
    Some of the things are already in my cleaning-routine, but some things I simply “forget”.
    Like cleaning those damn windows! Hopefully this will help me to stay on top of the game :)

  32. Morgan says:

    YAY cleaning help! While I love the design information on the site, I also love super helpful tips on maintaining a sparkly apartment that I can actually incorporate into my daily routine. Keep up the good work!

  33. Sheila says:

    Our 10-step process starts with removing all items that will need to be dusted, emptied or otherwise cleaned from their usual spots, and then cleaning the surfaces underneath—as opposed to cleaning around them. The final step, of course, involves cleaning the bathroom floor. You’ll also find tips such as to keep a hand-held vacuum in the bathroom for quick spot cleaning that will allow you to put off your next full run-through for a few days.

    Best regards!
    South Tottenham Carpet Cleaners Ltd.

  34. Veronica says:

    Love the list; can I suggest one more step? Every Saturday morning, before I start the week’s wiping and scrubbing and sorting, I walk around the garden, picking flowers and greenery. A vase or two of fresh flowers makes you smile and makes your home sparkle – whether you’ve wiped out the refrigerator or not.

  35. Tricia says:

    I definitely love the list! Now I have to try to apply it to my routine! Thanks for sharing! Greetings, Morden Park Carpet Cleaners Ltd.

  36. Kairo says:

    cool tips thanks, anyway, my husband has finally agreed to have our house and granny annex professionally pressure-washed. There’s quite a bit of pale green mildew on the vinyl siding. Is good ole’ bleach and water the best cleaning solution? Should soap be added? If so, what kind (dish? dishwasher? laundry? hand?) Any other tips with regard to pressure washing?

  37. Sarah says:

    This is tough, real tough. Cleaning can be a de-stressing way sometime. But only sometime. On busy day, cleaning is so boring and tiring. I only do it when things turn out to be real mess and we can’t stand it anymore. Your tips make me seriously think about making a plan on cleaning. This is cleaning management 101. New chapter of my life.

  38. Vincent says:

    It is always difficult for me to keep my home clean. And you advice is helpful for me. Maybe I need to apply them in my routine! Thanks a lot. They are useful.

  39. Very useful. I love this idea..

  40. Laverne says:

    I already do all of these things to maintain a clean home, or at least try to. How do get my SO to get into the habit of doing these things? I ask them to try and they might once or twice and then it’s as if I never asked.

  41. It is always difficult to keep my house clean. This aritcle is helpful. Thanks

  42. B says:

    I do at least one load of laundry every day so it never builds up and feels like an overhwelming mountain. But then, I also had three children in three years, and cloth diaper (had two in diapers twice). I also need to sweep/vacuum every other day, but in addition to toddlers and a crawling baby, I also have two dogs and a cat. And what about dishes? Nowhere on this list, but I suppose they’re a goes-without-saying daily ritual. Okay, let’s be honest, throughout-the-day ritual ;-)

    I know this list is a starting point intended as a general guideline, but busier homes may not want to just adopt it as-is, assuming that it will keep things tidy. Awesome schedule for all those other little tasks that can creep up unnoticed, though. Thanks for the help! :-)

  43. RoseMary E. Rosi says:

    I have read most of these post some for, some against and that is o. k..
    I like the list,😃. It gives me a good starting off point!😇. And a good ending point without going crazy😜 about it😌lol.

  44. Adam Waddy says:

    Very useful. I love it. Thanks for sharing :D

  45. Cindy Reed says:

    Great article! I have been reading your blog since one month. Keep posting! I am going to print this schedule immediately. Thank you for sharing!

  46. Abha Sen says:

    Perfectly matched to my situation, Dear.

    I always plan weekends for cleaning & clearing out any clutter left in my house. Sometimes it is so boring & hard for me to clean anything. I even gave each day for particular things but that idea also failed.

    Now I will try above mentioned idea, I will throw out stuffs which are no longer useful for me first. May be this will help.

    Thanks for sharing :)

  47. Lucy Park says:

    Great post. Thanks for sharing your
    cleaning list routine with us. Very helpful.

  48. Great article and superb tips. I live with my roommate in a hostel. Gonna follow your tips and will ask my friend Kairo to read it too. Cheers.

  49. Just as our lives, our homes are in constant demands. I can’t imagine myself not following a strict priorities of my household needs, I’d probably go insane.
    This print is very helpful and surely will help be up to schedule.

  50. Ivonne says:

    Thank you for the example of cleaning schedule … very useful .

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